Frequency of changing bow hair

Frequency of changing bow hair

I am surprised that I found nothing in the discussions on this subject. I have never broken one hair while playing, and therefore never suffer from any big loss of it, must be a lightweight player, but sometimes it just feels like I need new hair. Does anyone have any broad guideline on frequency of bow re-hairing ? Never broken a banjo string while playing either, yet have played with people who break a few strings EVERY gig ! I feel like I must be doing something wrong !

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

I don’t think you are doing anything wrong, necessarily. Everyone has a different style of playing. Usually, mine is fine for quite some time. I heard once that Eileen Ivers has to have her bow rehaired after every gig although that might be an exaggeration!

You must be losing some hair along the way though if you think it needs rehaired. A lot depends on the bow and hair used too, of course. It would be advisable to get it checked out at your local violin shop or by some other expert or luthier.

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

You only need a rehair when you lose enough hair or if the rosin no longer sticks to it. (Or a major repair) The hair itself has nothing to do with the sound, only the rosin. (There have been scientific tests proving this) There is no recommended interval or frequency for changing hair.

If you feel it is dirty, there are ways to clean it, but even that is not really necessary. Oils and other substances need to be removed, but dirt (esp at the frog area) won’t hurt a thing.

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Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

I like this answer from a bow maker

To give an idea of the time frame when a bow should be rehaired, I can only say that it depends on how many hours it was played for, and what kind of repertoire was being played. I see some of my customers every three months, whereas others manage to keep going for two years or more. There are several indicators for when the next rehair may be due:

* when you notice that you have to apply more and more rosin. This shows that the hair is simply worn out and has lost its grip.

* if the hairs are breaking at a more frequent rate. Do not let it get to the point where you end up playing on the wood instead.

* if the hair has shortened so that it is impossible to relax the tension fully. Again, visit your bow maker. A drop in humidity can bring this on, which tends to happen in the winter months, especially in places like Norway. This may be potentially dangerous for the bow, as the strain on the head could cause it to snap off.

* if the hair has stretched a lot. Have it checked by your bow maker. It may be down to a change in humidity or the wedge inside the frog may have slipped.

As for Eileen Ivers having to rehair all the time - I wouldn’t doubt it the way she attacks the fiddle. She is a blast to play with though.

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

As far as breaking strings goes, I actually broke a banjo string the other day for the first time in nearly 20 years. I think it must have been a flaw in the string. ;-) But really, how likely a string is to break doesn’t just depend on the playing style, it also depends on what tension you’re running your strings at. I used to break bouzouki strings fairly often - partially because they were being strummed harder than you would do on banjo, but also because those strings were usually at a significantly higher tension than banjo strings (which don’t need to be that tight to provide a decent tone).

I’m guessing that the same thing goes for bow hair. If you tighten your bow tension more, the more likely you would be to break the hairs (as well as how aggressively you bow). And wasn’t the album cover on Eileen’s Wild Blue album a picture of her holding a blue fiddle with tons of broken bow hair, flowing over the fiddle?

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

When people break stings a lot it is often down to something wrong with the instrument rather than their playing - a sharp edge on the saddle, nut or machine head .

With bow hair it actually goes the opposite way to what you would expect - the tighter you have it when you play the longer it lasts. What breaks hair is if it is too slack and the stick hits the strings - the hair gets crushed between stick and string.

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

I break bow hairs putting the bow in and out of the case, not playing. I haven’t broken many - maybe three or four.

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

I think you’d really have to abuse the bow to break hair on it. I "chop" , and don’t break any hairs.

I think that action puts the maximum strain on the hair (tugging at it crossways instead of in a straight line).

Some players break hair by cornering too.

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

What is cornering?

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

I don’t break hairs bowing but I often snag a hair taking the bow out from the grip in the case. It so annoys me, because then I have to pull the hair off to stop it trailing. I try and protect the bow hair from getting into the crack of the grip by putting a cardboard shield round it.

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

Aaron,
(There have been scientific tests proving this)
Any links or references for this?

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

I don’t know if playing fast affects the bow hair or not but sometimes you are only able to hang on to the tune by a "baw hair"…
:-P

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

@Cheeky - "cornering" is hitting the wood of the C bouts through skewed and sloppy bowing.

@Fiddle Aunt - the Bobelock cases and others have a felt-covered spring clip to hold the bow, to avoid catching the hair when you take it out or put it back.

The other thing I’ve seen people do when there are broken hair strands, is pull them off (breaking more strands in the process) instead of cutting them off cleanly at the end.

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

" "cornering" is hitting the wood of the C bouts through skewed and sloppy bowing."….. Yes, now I stop to think about it, I once asked this same question about the frequency of the hair on my bow breaking, and after Jim brought it to my attention I took great care to focus and not do it. Consequently, I hardly ever get broken bow-strings nowadays.

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Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

Nothing worse than rehairing a filthy bow, the slide sticks to the grove and sweat blisters the ebony. It is a real pain. Try for once a year if your just doing the Sat, session. Professionals do more and have more bows. Hope this helps.

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

I change the hair on my main bow once a year whether it really needs it or not, kind of preventive maintenance.

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

I take a similar approach to bathing.

Re: Frequency of changing bow hair

Probably more information than we really needed to know :)